What Makes Them Run?

Recently two politicians of distinct repute within their circles made distinctly different announcements regarding their political future.  Their situations, plus those of another who has yet to decide, has me wondering what makes them run?

Virginia state Senator John Chichester, President Pro Tempore of the Virginia Senate, announced a week ago that he would not be a candidate for reelection.  Aside from the strains of what promised to be a bruising nominating campaign and the retirement of his closest ally in the Senate, Chichester wants to help his wife Karen as she continues her recovery from a serious stroke.

Yesterday former US Senator and Democratic Party VP nominee John Edwards announced that his wife Elizabeth had suffered a recurrence of and worsening of her cancer.  Nonetheless, after prayerful consideration, he would continue-with her approval and encouragement-his quest for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination.

What makes them run?

I don’t know.  The considerations that go into that decision can be complex and highly personal, and sometimes stunningly simple.  My father was twice approached to run for the General Assembly.  The first time my father, a pediatrician, declined the opportunity.  Why?  The General Assembly meets during Cold and Flu season, and with a family to feed and a partnership to maintain he thought he needed to be home to work during that time of the year.  The second time-seven years later-my father, still a pediatrician, again declined the opportunity.  This time it was not the work, but certain dynamics in our family made it the better part of valor for him not to run.  Other people given this opportunity would have seized the chance with both hands.

What makes them run?

This question plays out in front of us with Charles Colgan, Democratic state Senator from Prince William County.  On the one hand, the VaDems need his seat to have a reasonable chance of taking the upper house.  Moreover, Colgan stands to become President Pro Tempore of the Senate and chairman of the Finance Committee if he is reelected and the Democrats take the Senate.  Such temptations are irresistible to many.

By the same token, the Senator has recently sold Colgan Airlines for millions of dollars.  He has a passel of grandchildren.  He watched his friend Harry Parrish die in the saddle last year, not even able to get home from his final GA session.  Moreover, what if he wins and the VaDems do not take the Senate?  Is the risk of four more years in the minority worth the possibility of becoming the most powerful man in the Virginia Senate?  What about the lure of a very comfortable and relaxed retirement from the political trenches, where he has labored for almost forty years?  The temptations of peace and relaxation over the possibility of power have proven irresistible to many.

What makes them run?

I don’t know.  I don’t know what drives folks to set aside their lives and seek public office.  Rather to seek public office and open their lives for inspection.  Shoot, I am so protective of my families privacy that I blog with a pseudonym.  The drive, desire, fearlessness and sheer chutzpah that drives those who seek office is beyond my ken.

Whatever it is, those who seek to represent the public are a special breed.  They have the courage to step up and the desire to make their voice heard.  They are a critical part of our representative democracy, and my hat is off to them-no matter how much I disagree with them.

And so…

  • To John Chichester-tank you for your service.
  • To John and Elizabeth Edwards-may God bless you in your moments of crisis, and may your family be able to find happiness and balance in the months ahead, and
  • To Chuck Colgan-make the decision you want to make. Don’t succumb to the specter of either Tim Kaine or Bob Fitzsimmonds. whatever you do, make sure to do what you want to do.
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    2 thoughts on “What Makes Them Run?

    1. Pingback: An answer « Vivian J. Paige

    2. Bwana:
      Well, I cannot answer why other people run for public office. I can only answer for my former boss and myself. My reasons for serving in an elected capacity can be traced back to the days when you and I were active in the Jaycees. (If I remember correctly, Bwana, went farther in the leadership of the Jaycees than I did.) In the Jaycees I learned what it was like to serve your community and be of service to my fellow man. With elected office I saw an opportunity to further that effort and make my community a better place for everyone to live, work and prosper. I really get the satisfaction of knowing that I have helped people that I have never met. I was given this example by my former boss, who today, is serving our country as a member of the current administration. Again, it is truly the way I view my service. I don’t claim to be perfect, but I do the best I can and give my community the benefit of my experiences. For the last ten years, the voters of my community have honored me with their trust and their vote. I do not take that honor and responsibility lightly.

      Talk to you soon,
      Bwana FIV

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